The conflict in Ukraine could endanger the security of nuclear installations in this country, warned the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi.
Addressing an emergency meeting of the agency’s Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Grossi revealed that he remained gravely concerned about the “unprecedented situation” prevailing in the country.
“This is the first time that a military conflict has taken place amidst the facilities of a major, established nuclear power program, which in this case also includes the site of the 1986 accident at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl,” he said.
Ask for help
Ukrainian regulators have written to the United Nations-backed atomic watchdog asking for help in ensuring the safety of the Chernobyl power plant and other nuclear facilities in the country.
Grossi called for restraint with regard to any action that could jeopardize the security of nuclear installations and nuclear and radioactive materials, since “any such incident could have serious consequences, increasing human suffering and causing environmental damage”.
The sites “operate normally”
According to Grossi, the four nuclear power plants that produce half of the country’s energy “are functioning normally”.
Russia had informed the agency on Tuesday that it had taken control of the territory around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s largest, he added.
Six of the country’s 15 operational nuclear reactors are located there.
“It is of paramount importance that the armed conflict and activities on the ground around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, or any other Ukrainian nuclear facility, do not interrupt or endanger the facilities or the people working there. or around them,” Grossi said.
Russian forces have also taken control of all facilities at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located in the deserted exclusion zone. No casualties or destruction were reported.
“Although increased levels of radiation were initially measured at the site, likely due to the movement of heavy military vehicles which stirred up the ground, the IAEA estimated that they remained low enough not to pose a hazard to the public,” Grossi noted.
Potentially serious consequences
Earlier this week, Russian missiles hit the site of a radioactive waste disposal facility in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. No damage was reported and there was no indication of radioactive release.
Earlier, an electrical transformer at a similar disposal facility near Kharkiv in the northeast of the country suffered damage, with no reported radioactive release.
“These two incidents, estimated the head of the IAEA, underline the risk that installations containing radioactive materials will be damaged during the armed conflict, with potentially serious consequences”.